“I did everything he did, but backwards, and in high heels.”
There are many times in my recent life where I realize it: often this realization occurs as I am sitting in a conference room or walking into an event and looking around. It is a sea of suits with the occasional skirt or dress.
I am a young woman in the entrepreneur and tech scene and I would like to report a decided lack of ladies. This is not news, and to be honest, I have the ability to get along perfectly fine with men. As long as you are careful of their egos, men are a lot easier to read and a lot harder to offend. But then I do notice the imbalanced ratio of women to men in tech and entrepreneurship and I have to wonder and lament that in this educated, enlightened period, why this still is?
I have a few theories as to why the gender ratio is still so imbalanced, most with a focus on the image of what a beautiful and successful woman is. While it has evolved over the years, it’s not there yet. The ratio is proof of that. I will say this: every woman in the tech or entrepreneurship scene tends to always be of the strongest of character, which is often considered mutually exclusive to beauty. Women that are beautiful as well as brilliant are often not taken seriously at first, providing another hoop to jump through. As Ginger Rogers once said “I did everything he did, but backwards, and in high heels.”
Meet the Women in Tech
I recently attended the Meet the Innovators: Tech Changemakers event that was hosted by the Apple Store down in Soho and led by Women Innovate Mobile. The panel of speakers was led by Kelly Hoey of Women Innovate Mobile. The panel was made up of Adda Birnir (Founder of SkillCrush), Kimberly Bryant (Founder and Executive Director of Black Girls Who Code), Kristen Titus (The Executive Director of Girls Who Code), Rachel Weiss (VP, Digital Innovation, Content and New Ventures at L’Oréal )and Samantha John (co-founder of Hopscotch). Two of these women have founded apps that teach people to code, two others heading up organizations that focus on teaching young girls how to code and with Rachel representing a global beauty brand, the panel was definitely insightful into the lack of young women in the industry and a call to action. This is an issue that is close to the heart of any successful businesswoman. We understand and appreciate the extra effort it requires to be a female leader in the business and tech world.
All of the women on the panel are leaders in their respective fields, with only a few having technical skills in their educational experience. One of the most interesting facts I learned was that not long ago, the numbers of women in tech and engineering were higher than they are today. Technologists are in great demand and the representation of women in this industry today is dismal. Where women used to comprise 37% of the industry, it is now between 7-12%. Adda worked at a media agency and experienced a time when everyone in her company was laid off, with the exception for those in tech, which inspired her to learn a skill set that was of such obvious value. Girls who Code has a summer project that has grown their presence to five different cities nationwide with eight different programs. Steps are being taken, thank goodness and with apps such as hopscotch, programming and coding can be learned at early ages.
At the end of the panel during Q&A, I asked, “What strategies and outreach do you have to rebrand and attract young girls towards tech and towards code? How have you been able to attract and grow the user base and going from user to creator, and that geek is chic and being a nerd is a great thing?” This is a question on which I would love to hear readers’ thoughts. Personally, I would love to see a campaign from a beauty brand that shows that smart is sexy and brainy is beautiful. “Beauty without intelligence is a masterpiece painted on a napkin” – author unkown. Ladies, let’s take a pass on the pink and Barbie and pick up the books and the tablets.
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